Up until now, AMC Networks — which operates AMC, IFC, BBC America, Sundance TV and several other properties — has been something of a free agent in the impending streaming wars. The media company has been well positioned to license out its properties to the highest bidder. The Walking Dead, for instance, streams on Netflix, as does Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad; Fear the Walking Dead streams on Hulu; and BBC America will be licensing Doctor Who to HBO Max when that service arrives in May 2020.
With The Walking Dead streaming on Netflix and Fear on Hulu, some may be wondering where the new The Walking Dead spin-off — due out in the Spring 2020 — will end up? The answer is: None of the above. The spin-off, which will focus on a new generation of survivors who have spent their lives shielded from the outside apocalypse, still doesn’t have a title yet, but the series from Matthew Negrete looks fantastic and completely different from the other The Walking Dead series.
That may be why AMC has decided to keep the untitled series all to itself. During an earnings call this week, AMC Networks CEO Josh Sapan revealed that while licensing rights to the series would go to Amazon for international distribution, they would not be licensing it elsewhere domestically. They’re keeping it to themselves. “So domestically we will not sell the SVOD rights to this third Walking Dead series,” Sopan said in the call. “But rather the series will be used to fuel our own platforms, both streaming, as well as linear as we window it and take full advantage of the opportunities that it presents to us.”
In other words, while everyone else is moving toward streaming, AMC hopes to use the third series specifically to beef up cable subscriptions. And when Sopan says they want to use it to fuel their own “streaming” platforms, he means AMC Premiere, which is a commercial-free version of the channel available for $5 a month. The catch, however, is that in order to receive the cable-free version, one must already have a cable subscription, so there will not be anyway to see the spin-off series without subscribing to a cable service.
The deal actually makes some sense for AMC Networks, as it struck deals with Charter Spectrum to offer its subscription video on demand services, as well as AMC Premiere, through Spectrum cable. They’re also diversifying by offering niche streaming services, like Acorn TV, Sundance, and Shudder, the latter of which offers Creepshow from The Walking Dead exec producer Greg Nicotero (recently renewed for a second season).
It may also be a gamble on the future of basic cable. With so many streaming options becoming available and viewers already desiring bundling options for all the streaming networks, cable television and the status quo may begin to look attractive to viewers who don’t want to bother with all that hassle. AMC seems to at least want to put one of their eggs in the cable basket. It’s also the strategy of the Peacock, NBC/Universal’s forthcoming platform, which seems to be designed to encourage viewers to continue subscribing to cable rather than a stand-alone service (Comcast owns NBC/Universal, so that makes sense). Plus, if the AMC Networks can ultimately beef up subscribers to AMC Premiere, it may be able to spin it off at some point into a stand-alone streaming service if cable television ultimately bottoms out.
(Via Hollywood Reporter)